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Harvest time at York County vineyards a highlight of Pa. Wine Month
Carl Helrich, owner of Allegro Winery & Vineyard, shares the history and what makes York County great for growing grapes.
On a warm, sunny day in Codorus Township, Logan’s View Winery production facility was bustling.
Three of 18 partners rotate, grabbing a crate of dark purple Chambourcin grapes from a truck bed, pouring them into the crushing machine, rinsing and piling the crates and then repeating the process as they work through 4,405 pounds of grapes.
October is Pennsylvania Wine Month, with events scheduled throughout the state's wine-making areas, including York County, as well as special tastings planned at state wine stores.
Winemakers in York County are harvesting this year's crop and promoting the area as wine country. Just ask Carl Helrich, owner of Allegro Winery and Vineyards in Brogue.
"There is something really interesting about York County soil," he said.
According to Helrich, German settlers in the 1700s referred to southern York County as "the barrens" because they couldn't get anything to grow.
But the same soil characteristics that made it tough for those settlers to grow crops are the very reason grape production is good.
"The vineyards, they're not looking for great soils. We don't want happy vines," he said. Happy vines, according to Helrich, expend their energy on creating more "green stuff," leaves and new shoots. When the vine thinks it's dying, it focuses on growing fruit, which is what vineyards want.
Winemaker Stephen Bahn, of Logan's View Winery, processes Chambourcin grapes at the production facility in Codorus Township.
At Logan's View, the grapes are de-stemmed, crushed by machine and routed into a tub, which will be covered and sit overnight.
The juice sits overnight to dye the wine a light pink, and the next day it becomes rosé, winemaker and ownership partner Stephen Bahn said.
“This growing season has been kind of capricious,” said Bahn. “Chambourcin is a hybrid red grape. We ferment it with the skins to the get color into the wine. If you squeeze these grapes, the juice that came out of them is clear. The skin has all the coloring matter and all the flavoring matter and the aromatics.”
"For the white wines, it will take a week and a half for all the sugar to ferment to dryness, and at that point, technically, it’s wine. All we have to do is clarify it, clean it up and get it ready to bottle," Bahn said.
Changes in the commonwealth's liquor laws are helping York County wineries and vineyards, Helrich said.
"We are doing a lot more distribution and have actually been able to plant some new vineyards," he said.
Dozens of events celebrating Pennsylvania wines and wineries will be held across the commonwealth during Pennsylvania Wine Month in October, including farm and vineyard tours; festivals featuring music and celebrations of the fall harvest; and tasting and food-pairing opportunities. More information is available at pawinemonth.com.
Wine specialists at Fine Wine & Good Spirits Premium Collection stores will add Pennsylvania wines to regularly scheduled tastings throughout October.
The Mason-Dixon Wine Trail offers tastings, festivals and other events through southcentral Pennsylvania and northern Maryland. For more information, go to www.yorkpa.org/things-to-do/mason-dixon-wine-trail.